IMPACT OF WRITTEN COMMUNICATION
The power of the Internet has made email an integral part of people’s lives. In a virtual learning and development program hosted by XED Institute of Management and delivered by Prof. Andrew B. Quagilata, SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University, participants who are all leading executives in their industry agreed that all of them receive at least 100 emails every day. One participant even reported that she receives a staggering number of emails on a regular basis. So the question arises on how we can write emails that won’t stay unread in someone’s inbox?
“We forget what it’s like, to not know what we know.” – Prof. Andrew
The main challenge is to get people’s attention to your email. Each one of us who composes emails, carry along with our name, our own individual email reputation with each receiver. This reputation is as important as one’s title, designation and organization. We don’t recognise its existence consciously because email reputation is built on the split second decision you make on a regular basis whenever you see a new email in your inbox. It is that thought of either “Ah! So good to see a mail from Kevin again!” or “No! Yet another mail from Kate.”
KEY FACTORS TO BUILD E-MAIL REPUTATION
Your emails must be concise. But in the process of being crisp, you must not omit important information that the reader might want to read. Complexity and big words make the reading experience extremely inefficient. Prof. Andrew said that you, as the composer of a message, should always base your writing on three primary questions every time you type an email:
How long does it take for a reader to figure the purpose of the message?
Would the reader have to read the message twice?
Is the reader expected to take an action based on the message?
Readers process information differently depending on the complexity of the message and their individual purpose for reading. In addition, one must also recognize and be sensitive about any cultural or traditional differences amongst one’s audience. When the message is ambiguous or impolite, the reader subconsciously moves the pointer towards the negative edge of the writer’s email reputation scale.
“I know they meant to send this email to me.” – reader on receiving an email with a high email reputation.
PADOS FRAMEWORK FOR EFFICIENT COMMUNICATION
In the course of the session, Prof. Andrew explained the PADOS (Purpose, Audience, Design, Organise and Style) framework used for efficiently communicating your message through what you write. Before you sit down at the keyboard, you must ponder over the important question – “Why are you writing?”. This framework can be used in all forms of writing to effectively communicate your message with your audience. Even when you are preparing a presentation, before you jump into Powerpoint, get a piece of paper, pen down the story you want to tell and only then populate the slides.
TYPES OF READERS
A writer must also be aware of the fact that everybody does not read the same way. Different readers read differently based on the combination of their inherent personality and their perceived definition of why they are reading. A message can often have a secondary audience in addition to a primary audience, when a message is forwarded or retold by a receiver.
“Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.” – Mark Twain
Therefore, it is important to design every message with a Plain English style of writing. The basics of using active voices, avoiding redundancy and using the simplest words whenever possible will exponentially enhance the reading experience for the audience.
“Effective writers understand that writing is a process of planning, feedback and sending.” – Prof. Andrew
Always write one’s emails or messages to be receiver centric. When you simplify and give maximum value for the reader’s time and purpose, you will eventually build a stellar email reputation. This reputation will in turn make your email stand out in an inbox flooded with an ocean of emails, opening doors to business opportunities that once stayed shut because your email never got opened.